Luke Baird’s REU at Wichita State University

This past summer, I attended an REU at Wichita State University in Kansas. I originally heard about the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in an email from Dr. Ed Post, advertising the REU in Cyber-physical systems, along with several other REUs. REUs are summer research internship programs at different universities throughout the country funded by the National Science Foundation in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. With the support of several professors in the Electrical Engineering department at Embry-Riddle, I was readily accepted into the program.

A view of the dorm Shocker Hall at WSU.

Before, I had zero experience whatsoever with research, however, the program provided a smooth introduction to it. My work schedule was super laid-back. Once a week, I would meet with the program coordinator for different workshops discussing topics such as how to apply to graduate school, what is expected in research, and how to present research findings effectively. Also, I met weekly with my faculty mentor regarding the specific research in which I was involved. As a result, I needed to employ a lot of self-discipline. Thankfully, I formed good study habits at Embry-Riddle that I applied at the REU.

When I was in high school, I had a job with a marketing company developing mobile apps. Based on this work experience, the program coordinator paired me with a project in the field of Android cybersecurity. It was my task to research and develop a set of tools to determine if a given app on the Android platform is hiding in different lists on a device.

At a poster session featuring my work with Android.

One of my favorite things about Kansas is that the people there are remarkably hospitable. Within days, I had the opportunity to make friends both with other REU interns and with several local residents through a college group and a local church. This was a huge blessing as I did not have a car in Kansas.

Towards the end of the REU, I had the opportunity to visit Hutchinson, KS where NASA’s Cosmosphere is located. Their lobby is built around a SR-71 Blackbird banked 30 degrees for its turn to final.

Beside an SR-71 Blackbird at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS

One of the coolest things that I got to see there was the original Apollo 13 space capsule, reassembled after different parts toured the world for many years. It was particularly interesting to see the history of rockets from World War II through the space race. As an American, I was quite unfamiliar with the German and Russian history which was covered extensively and honestly in the museum.

Currently, I am finishing up the paper that was mostly completed during the REU. It is wonderful to be able to show a completed paper at the end of a program, especially as an undergraduate. I went from not knowing a thing about research to having a finished paper. My mentor and I are submitting the paper to a conference which I will hear from by the end of the month.

To any students who are interested in research—I would highly recommend an REU, especially for Sophomores as REUs accept Sophomores far more readily than industry internships do. There was even an intern who had only completed his freshmen year who was accepted! I am thankful for Embry-Riddle making this wonderful opportunity possible for me this summer!

The Missouri River in Kansas City, MO

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